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Textile Electrodes for Flexible Thin Film Photovoltaic Solar Cells

Rare metals used in electronic parts render the end products costly. The metals are used to develop transparent electrodes applied in mobile phone touch screen displays, liquid-crystal displays, organic LEDs and thin-film solar cells.

Indium tin oxide (ITO) is the most common of these metal alloys since ITO is expensive, it is not economical to use in large area applications such as solar cells.

Empa in collaboration with Sefar has developed a flexible and transparent woven polymer. The research program was funded by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). Sefar will manufacture the polymer on a large scale using a roll to roll technique that will allow the product to be cost effective. The method is like printing newspapers.

Metal nano-wires worked into the polymer make it conduct electricity. The polymer is then integrated into a stationary plastic layer. The plastic does not entirely cover the metal nano-wires, enabling it to harness the conductivity. The electrode is flexible and transparent.

The Empa team next applied multiple coatings to the substrate in order to develop an organic solar cell. The electrode continues to remain stable even when stretched out of shape.

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